Johnny Sexton's omission from the British and Irish Lions squad was one of Warren Gatland's "toughest decisions", the coach has admitted.

Ireland legend Sexton, the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year, was one of the surprise exclusions from Gatland's 37-man selection for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

Sexton misses out despite the fly-half playing a key role on the 2017 trip to New Zealand, with Gatland expressing some concerns over the 35-year-old's "durability" and instead calling up Dan Biggar, Owen Farrell and Finn Russell.

"There's no doubt that that was one of the toughest decisions that we had to make," said Gatland at a news conference on Thursday.

"I've got a huge amount of respect for Johnny and his quality, but it's such a pivotal position for us and it's about sending a message to the 10s that we have selected that we have the confidence and belief in them to do a job.

"When we looked at where we were going in South Africa probably the thing that kept coming back to us was Johnny's durability, being able to put a string of matches together consecutively, and big matches.

"He has been rested on a number of occasions and unfortunately that's possibly what swayed it for us in terms of us not having the confidence that he can get through what's going to be a tough, physical tour."

Billy Vunipola was also a notable absentee from the list, while other big calls saw Wales centre Jonathan Davies, England prop Kyle Sinckler and Ireland second row James Ryan left out.

However, Gatland did find room for Exeter Chiefs number eight Sam Simmonds, who has not played a Test for England since March 2018.

The Lions will face the Springboks in Tests on July 24, July 31 and August 7.

Alun Wyn Jones has been named captain of the British and Irish Lions for their tour of South Africa, leading a 37-man squad.

Warren Gatland announced his selection on Thursday ahead of the trip in July, which follows a warm-up against Japan next month.

Wales great Jones has been chosen for the leadership role having featured in the past nine Lions Tests going back to 2009, the longest run in the professional era.

Jones has already skippered the side once previously in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton in Australia eight years ago, clinching a first series win since 1997.

Elsewhere in Gatland's squad, Ireland's former World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton misses out despite playing a key role on the 2017 trip to New Zealand.

Billy Vunipola was also a notable absentee from the list, while other big calls saw Wales centre Jonathan Davies, England prop Kyle Sinckler and Ireland second row James Ryan excluded.

However, Gatland did find room for Exeter Chiefs number eight Sam Simmonds, who has not played a Test for England since March 2018.

"We believe we've picked a squad capable of winning a Test series in South Africa," Gatland - who opted for 11 Englishmen, 10 Welshmen and eight apiece from Ireland and Scotland - said following the squad announcement.

"Selecting a Lions squad is never easy and, in many ways, this has been the most challenging selection I have been involved in.

"Over the course of the last three weeks the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position.

"We saw some outstanding performances in the recent Six Nations, so competition for places has been tough with some incredibly tight calls to make. 

"However, we are very happy with the squad we have assembled and look forward to meeting up in Jersey in just over a month's time to start our preparation to take on the world champions.

"We've left out some very talented players which gives an indication to the strength of this squad and we know how important that stand-by list will be.

"Being selected for a Lions tour is the greatest honour for a British and Irish player and I congratulate everyone named today."

The Lions will face the Springboks in Tests on July 24, July 31 and August 7.


British and Irish Lions squad in full:

Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales), Bundee Aki (Connacht, Ireland), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), Elliot Daly (Saracens, England), Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales), Owen Farrell (Saracens, England), Chris Harris (Gloucester, Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster, Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland), Conor Murray (Munster, Ireland), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester, Wales), Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh, Scotland), Anthony Watson (Bath, England), Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales); Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland), Jack Conan (Leinster, Ireland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Taulupe Faletau (Bath, Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, Ireland), Jamie George (Saracens, England), Iain Henderson (Ulster, Ireland), Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England), Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales), Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England), Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), Andrew Porter (Leinster, Ireland), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh, Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh, Scotland).

Alun Wyn Jones has been named captain of the British and Irish Lions for their tour of South Africa, leading a 36-man squad.

Warren Gatland announced his selection on Thursday ahead of the trip in July, which follows a warm-up against Japan next month.

Wales great Jones has been chosen as captain having featured in the past nine Lions Tests going back to 2009, the longest run in the professional era.

Jones has already skippered the side once in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton in Australia eight years ago, clinching a first series win since 1997.

New Zealand paceman Trent Boult could miss both Tests against England after being cleared to visit his family following the postponement of the Indian Premier League.

Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner and physio Tommy Simsek will stay in the IPL New Delhi mini-bubble before departing for England on May 11.

Boult, who had been playing for the Mumbai Indians before the IPL season was postponed due to rising coronavirus cases in India, has been allowed to return to his homeland before heading to England.

He will join up with the Test squad early next month, so will not feature in the first Test at Lord's - which starts on June 2.

Boult may be back in contention for the second Test at Edgbaston and will definitely be available for the ICC World Test Championship final against India, which gets under way at the Ageas Bowl on June 18.

Black Caps trainer Chris Donaldson, who has been working with the Kolkata Knight Riders, will also return home briefly to see his family before joining the Test squad.

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said: "We're completely supportive of Chris and Trent taking the opportunity to see their families before heading to the UK.

"They've always been the consummate professionals and we're more than happy to accommodate these arrangements.

"We've worked closely with the BCCI and the IPL franchises on the various departure strategies and we're very appreciative of their support during what is, clearly, a very challenging time.

"Were also very grateful to the England and Wales Cricket Board for accommodating the early arrival of the four members of the Test squad currently in India."

Eight of England's 11 players involved in the Indian Premier League have returned home following the indefinite suspension of the tournament.

The decision to call a halt to this year's competition was taken on Tuesday amid the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in India.

After two cases were confirmed among the Kolkata Knight Riders, Monday's game against Royal Challengers Bangalore was postponed. A Sunrisers Hyderabad player then also tested positive ahead of their fixture with Mumbai Indians.

Focus is now on seeing participants leave the country safely, with fears players would need to self-isolate in India and also return a negative coronavirus test before attempting to get a flight.

However, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Jason Roy all boarded a flight that landed at Heathrow on Wednesday.

They will have to quarantine in government-approved hotels for the next 10 days.

The remaining three England players who were on duty - Eoin Morgan, Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan - are expected to leave India within the next 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley has confirmed the contingent of Australian IPL players will be moved to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in the coming days.

The Australian government has blocked citizens returning home within 14 days of being in India, meaning they will first have to isolate elsewhere.

English rugby and cricket will follow football in a social media boycott aimed at combatting the ongoing problem of online abuse.

Last Sunday, it was announced that teams from the top men's and women's leagues in England would not post to their social media accounts from Friday until next Monday, with players expected to follow suit.

A joint statement from governing bodies including the FA, the Premier League, the Women's Super League and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), confirmed the action was aimed at demonstrating "that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight".

On Wednesday, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed all 18 first-class county sides, as well as regional women's teams and the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) "will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the football community" by taking part in the blackout.

PCA chief executive Rob Lynch said: "Social media companies have to do more. Our members are often victims of horrific online abuse with little or no punishment for the perpetrators and this has to change.

"A unified silence from players and the wider game is a powerful stance to show that our members will not allow social media companies, which have brought so much benefit to the game, to continue to ignore and fail to prioritise the need for appropriate legislation in protecting people against online discriminatory behaviour."

On Thursday, England Rugby announced that all social media channels run by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) would also join the boycott, along with leading clubs.

Sarah Hunter, who this month captained England to a third successive Women's Six Nations title, said: "No professional sportsperson should have to suffer abuse, racism or harassment on social media.

"We've all seen how social media can help bring fans and players closer together but this does not mean abuse should be ignored.

"While we have an important Test match in France on Friday, we understand there are bigger and more important issues and hopefully this is an important statement that online hate will not be tolerated."

Harvey Barnes has suffered a setback in his return from a knee injury, ruling the winger out for not just the remainder of the domestic season but also Euro 2020.

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed on Wednesday that Barnes – who has not played since a 3-1 home loss to Arsenal on February 28 – underwent a second operation to clean out the knee.

The procedure means the Foxes will have to do without the 23-year-old for the Premier League run-in, as well as the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 15.

Barnes scored nine goals and provided four assists in 25 league games for Leicester, who are on course to qualify for next season's Champions League with a top-four finish.

"We've had a slight setback with Harvey," Rodgers told the media.

"He's just gone in to have a second, minor operation, just to clear up some of the damage in his knee.

"It will probably rule him out for the rest of the season, but the plan is really to get him through this second little operation and then he'll be back for pre-season and fit and ready for next season."

 

Barnes impressively outperformed his expected goals (xG) number of 5.9 in league action in 2020-21, scoring nine times from 56 shots while also creating 26 chances for his team-mates.

His impressive form at club level led to a full international debut last October, as he came on as a late substitute in England's 3-0 friendly win over Wales.

However, any hope he had of forcing his way into Gareth Southgate's plans for Euro 2020 have been ended by further surgery, with Rodgers making clear the target is to be ready for the start of the 2021-22 season.

"It's a shame because he's been absolutely outstanding for us this season," Rodgers added. "Of course, we hoped he'd be back to play some part, but it’s not to be.

"The most important thing is getting his knee right and getting him ready for next season."

Leicester sit third in the table with five games remaining – they have a seven-point gap over fifth-placed West Ham after Monday's 2-1 home win over Crystal Palace, putting them on course to play in the Champions League for just the second time in their history.

Chatter rippled quickly across the Wembley press room, a buzz of excitement quickly following. It was the first thing most people looking at hot-off-the-press team sheets mentioned.

"Foden's starting."

Since describing the playmaker as "a gift" in the aftermath of his maiden senior outing for Manchester City against Manchester United in the 2017 International Champions Cup, Pep Guardiola persistently had his use of Foden questioned.

The teenager wasn't playing enough, then he wasn't starting enough, then he wasn't starting enough meaningful games. Guardiola maintained he had a plan and it absolutely did not include Foden going out on loan.

But there he was in the first XI for a major cup final. He responded by turning in a man-of-the-match display as City beat Aston Villa 2-1 to win a third consecutive EFL Cup.

They will look to make it four in a row against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday and, in the interim period, Foden has scarcely looked back.

A serious player

His outing in the 2020 final was Foden's 61st appearance for City, going back to a competitive debut from the bench against Feyenoord in the Champions League in November 2017.

Those initial steps of his career saw him make 24 starts and play 2,439 minutes. His knockdown for Sergio Aguero to open the scoring against Villa was a 10th assist to sit alongside 10 goals.

In a little over a year since, Foden has almost doubled his appearances with 56 and 38 starts contribute to a major leap of 3,598 minutes played.

The returns those appearances have yielded do much to explain his status as a one of Guardiola's go-to men, to the extent it is possible he will be afforded the luxury of a rest against Spurs, given City have a Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain on the horizon and a Premier League title to wrap up.

That might not be the most advisable course of action, given City's record of won 26, drawn three, lost one when Foden starts this season. The sole defeat came in the second Premier League game of the season against Leicester City in September.

That win percentage of 86.7 per cent drops to 68.2 (W15 D3 L4) when Guardiola opts to take Foden out of the firing line.

"His influence in our game is massive right now," the City manager told Sky Sports after another man-of-the-match showing at Villa's expense in midweek, where Foden netted a first-half equaliser in a 2-1 win before his twinkling feet mercilessly goaded opposition right-back Matty Cash into a red card.

"He is becoming a serious player for us," Guardiola added.

Pep's most prolific youngster

Last season's EFL Cup final was played out in front of a capacity Wembley crowd, for whom the Super League was a rugby league competition. It truly was a different world.

Whatever this disorientating reality is, Foden is making it his own.

In the period since he has scored 19 and laid on a further 11 in all competitions, with his minutes-per-goal figure down from 244 to 189 and shot conversion up from 13 to 16.5 per cent.

Such sharp shooting saw him score the winner in both legs of City's Champions League quarter-final win over Borussia Dortmund, the latter rasping strike leading to a cathartic and emotional embrace with Guardiola.

Unsurprisingly, Foden is far outstripping his expected goals (xG) figure of 11.8 since the 2020 EFL Cup final, while an xG 9.8 aligned almost exactly with his 10 goals beforehand.

This higher output is because, much to the profound discomfort of Cash and others, Foden has evolved from the scheming midfielder of his youth to an explosive and versatile wide attacker.

Only Kevin De Bruyne with 24 has been directly involved in more City goals than Foden's 23 this season, thanks to his 14 goals and nine assists.

Looking further back across a career where Guardiola has worked with some of the finest young talent in the game, Foden's overall 29 goals and 21 assists give him 50 goal involvements – more than any other player before turning 21 under the former Barcelona Bayern Munich boss.

The England international's 29 goals are also unmatched among that age group, with Bojan Krkic also scoring the same number for Guardiola's Barcelona.

This weekend is unlikely to be the last time Foden graces Wembley this year, as a starring role with England at Euro 2020 surely awaits – the 20-year-old having taken to international football effortlessly.

From boy to main man

"He was a boy when I arrived, at 17 years old he trained every day with these guys and played more minutes," Guardiola said on Friday.

"Now he is stronger with his physicality, but it is normal. He is still at an age to get stronger, play more minutes and have more experience.

"He has the ability to play in different positions. That's why he is a better player but still, like every player, he can be better. It depends on him."

In this week of all weeks, as he hauled his boyhood team to a vital win, there was something delightful about watching Foden's star continue its unchecked and rapid ascent since that surprise cup final call.

When the modern City began stacking up trophies almost a decade ago, he cheered them on from pitchside as a ballboy. Now, he plays a pivotal role in everything they achieve.

Given his employers' involvement in the tawdry Super League debacle, it will be an incredibly long time until any vaguely romantic notions can be pinned to Manchester City as an organisation.

But Foden's story, that of a young man living out his childhood fantasy every week, playing the football from all of our wildest dreams, is one any fan can cherish. Its appeal is something the suited goons and hedge fund cretins will never understand.

When Foden plays, in those moments of velvet first touches, darting dribbles and thumping finishes, all the nonsense melts away in the face of pure footballing talent. Guardiola was right, he really is a gift.

England have the right squad composition to be a force at upcoming major tournaments, according to former Three Lions winger Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Gareth Southgate led his side to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018 and England are among the bookmakers' favourites for glory at the rescheduled Euro 2020 taking place between June and July this year.

The England boss has plenty of selection headaches to contend with, especially among attack-minded midfielders, where the likes of Mason Mount, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and James Maddison all harbour realistic hopes of making the squad.

Ex-Manchester City and Chelsea winger Wright-Phillips, a member of England's 2010 World Cup squad, believes the strength in depth and unity among the team makes the Three Lions a force to be reckoned with.

Asked by Stats Perform News if England have the squad to compete for the biggest honours, he replied: "I think they do. A lot of them have played together in the Under-21s. 

"Some of them have even played together at clubs, they all get on very well, and they're all pushing for the same thing. 

"I can't see there being any divides in there, they're all just happy to put on that shirt and represent their country. 

"I know for a fact that they will all give their all, and leave nothing left on the pitch, so from having that you're batting in the right direction."

He added: "I think all it takes for them is to get more confident and believe in themselves. 

"The firepower that we've got up top, it's exciting times, especially for England and tough choices for Southgate, which everybody as a manager would love to be able to pick from so many talented attacking players. 

"He's picking from a lot of diamonds, and hopefully he picks the right one and gets all the cogs in the clock working right."

England are in World Cup qualification action on Wednesday, having started by taking six points from matches against San Marino and Albania.

On paper, Southgate's side face a sterner test of their credentials against Poland, but the visitors at Wembley are without talisman Robert Lewandowski due to a knee injury while their squad has been hit by a spate of positive COVID-19 tests.

"They've had two games so far that people have expected them to win, but they can sometimes be banana skins, and they've gone out there and put on a performance, been professionals and got the job done," he said. 

"The game against Poland will be a slightly different match, Lewandowski's injured.

"But even then Poland will be a much stiffer task to deal with. Let's see if they can pull through that, if they just keep moving along slowly, keep getting the job done, professionally."

England Under-21s boss Aidy Boothroyd has claimed he has an "utterly impossible job", with his team on the verge of an exit from Euro 2021.

Boothroyd's youngsters have lost their first two group matches in the rearranged tournament, to Switzerland and Portugal respectively.

The defeats have left England needing to beat Croatia by at least two goals on Wednesday, while hoping that Portugal overcome Switzerland, to reach the quarter-finals, which take place later this year.

Jadon Sancho, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden are among the star names Boothroyd could have had at his disposal for the competition, though all of them are now seen as senior players, with only Liverpool full-back Alexander-Arnold not selected in Gareth Southgate's squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers.

Nevertheless, Boothroyd has still been able to call upon several players who are regulars for Premier League teams, though one of those – Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi – has suffered an injury and will miss the Croatia clash.

There has been doubt over Boothroyd's position, with England U21s having failed to make it out of the group in the 2019 Euros, after falling out in the semi-finals in 2017, but the former Watford manager has defended his work.

"I know the senior men's job has been called the impossible job but the U21s is the utterly impossible job," he told reporters.

"The reason is the amount of players who have to be produced for the senior team and we are expected to win.

"There's a reason why we haven't won this for 37 years and why we haven't progressed as much as we thought we would, because our primary aim is to get players through to Gareth [Southgate].

"Could you imagine a reserve-team manager knocking on the door of a senior manager at a club and saying 'listen boss, I think today you should let me have the best player to win the reserve championship'. That just wouldn't happen.

"The only team that needs to win is the senior team. Everywhere else, winning is part of it, drawing is part of it and having adversity is part of it.

"The reason I say that it is the utterly impossible job is because new players come in, younger players come in and the wheel starts again.

"My job isn't to say to Gareth we should have Jude, Phil or Mason, it is about the senior team and it always will be.

"If someone is doing this job and hiding players and not allowing them to go forward then the system is flawed. I don't want to be the whinge bag to defend myself. They are facts but they are what the job is."

Boothroyd replaced Southgate as U21 boss, with the now England manager having impressed the FA during his stint in charge of the youth team.

Asked for his view on the U21s' disappointing campaign, Southgate told a news conference: "I think it's a difficult balance. Nobody really thinks about the U21s until you get to the finals, then you are judged.

"It's development football, although those players are good players, they're normally surrounded by experienced players. When they are playing as an age-group together, it's a different challenge.

"It's always difficult to be U21 head coach. The timing of this tournament, coinciding with World Cup qualifiers. We want to try to win tournaments, we've benefited from that when the U17s and U20s won the World Cup.

"But development football throws up all sorts of things. I went to a European Championship, we had a fantastic game with Portugal that we lost. You never know what generation the other countries have got. When the results don't go your way, you find out so much about the players."

England boss Gareth Southgate expects Poland to be highly motivated for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier at Wembley in the absence of captain and leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski.

The Bayern Munich striker sustained a knee injury in Sunday's 3-0 win over Andorra - a game in which he scored twice - and it was confirmed by his club on Tuesday that he will miss the next month.

Lewandowski has scored 66 goals in 118 appearances for Poland, including nine goals in his last nine starts in all competitions.

But Southgate rejected the notion that England will be boosted by the prolific striker's absence for the clash between Group I's top two seeds.

"From our perspective, you're going to have players who are hungry to fill that opportunity," Southgate said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

"They're a good side with some good players. They will all fight for the cause and they're a good football team. They've got high motivation. 

"We've got to keep improving. We've shown a good level and we've got to keep stepping up.

"I understand the question, but I think Poland have excellent players. We would be naive to think they are less of a threat. 

"If we think of taking our foot off the gas, we'll get hurt. Of course, the public want to see the star names, but a team isn't about one player."

England will be looking to make it three wins from three in their March fixtures after following up a 5-0 win over San Marino with a 2-0 victory in Albania on Sunday.

Mason Mount was among the scorers in Tirana and has enjoyed an impressive campaign at club level with Chelsea.

He has played the most minutes of any Chelsea player (2,231) this term, while his 69 chances created is 41 more than anyone else. 

The 168 passes Mount has played into the opposition box is also by far the most among Chelsea players, form that he has carried over onto the international stage.

There had been doubts over the midfielder's fitness after he sat out part of training on Tuesday, but Southgate expects to have one of his key men available for the visit of Poland.

"He didn't warm up with the team but he did the rest of the session with his team-mates," Southgate said. "He should be fine. They are all available as far as we are aware.

"We've managed the team through the matches and the training sessions. We've been very cautious. We've got to balance that freshness. 

"We were very happy with the performance the other day. Around Europe, most countries have taken a similar slant."

Poland may be without their leading marksman for the game, but England have a fit and firing Harry Kane to lead their line.

The Tottenham striker's club future has been the subject of much speculation during the international break, but Southgate reiterated his captain will not be distracted by the rumours.

"He's so focused. I had a chat with him and he's very positive about the club," Southgate said. 

"He was talking about being a few points off the Champions League, into the EFL Cup final. I've got no worries about Harry Kane. He's a fantastic professional.

"Harry is highly motivated. All players want to win. He's got an opportunity with his club to do that."

Kane has scored on six days of the week for England but has never managed to do so on a Wednesday, failing in three different games on that day so far. 

Only Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney have scored on all seven of the days of the week for the Three Lions.

England could be without Mason Mount for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley.

Mount was absent from Tuesday's training session, with the Chelsea midfielder undergoing work with the medical and performance team, though no injury details were revealed.

It would represent a blow to England, with Mount having scored in Sunday's 2-0 win over Albania.

That result made it back-to-back victories for the Three Lions in Group I, in which Poland likely pose their greatest threat.

Mount has been a key man for Chelsea this term, playing more minutes (2,231) than any of his team-mates, while his 69 chances created is 41 more than anyone else. 

He has been a creative pillar for the Blues, as further evidenced by his 168 passes into the box being by far the most among Chelsea players, while the fact he quickly won his place back after being left out for Thomas Tuchel's first game in charge speaks to his impressive mentality. 

Poland suffered a huge injury setback of their own when record goalscorer Robert Lewandowski was forced to return to Bayern Munich to receive treatment on a knee injury.

The striker sustained damage to the collateral ligament of his right knee during the 3-0 win over Andorra, in which he scored twice.

Poland issued a statement on Monday to confirm Lewandowski would miss Wednesday's match in order to avoid the risk of aggravating the injury.

The 32-year-old has instead returned to Germany for further treatment, which is expected to last from five to 10 days.

Poland have also lost Grzegorz Krychowiak and Kamil Piatkowski, who become the latest players to test positive for coronavirus.

Midfielder Mateusz Klich was the first squad member to return a positive COVID-19 test last week and it was revealed on Saturday that goalkeeper Łukasz Skorupski had also contracted the virus.

Grzegorz Krychowiak and Kamil Piatkowski are the latest Poland players to test positive for coronavirus ahead of the World Cup qualifier against England on Wednesday.

Midfielder Mateusz Klich was the first squad member to return a positive COVID-19 test last week and it was revealed on Saturday that goalkeeper Łukasz Skorupski had also contracted the virus.

Polish Football Association spokesman Jakub Kwiatkowski confirmed midfielder Krychowiak and defender Piatkowski have now tested positive on the eve of the clash with Group I leaders England at Wembley.

Kwiatkowski tweeted: "The Polish national team has undergone further tests for the presence of coronavirus.

"Unfortunately, the results of Grzegorz Krychowiak and Kamil Piatkowski are positive. Due to the fact that Krychowiak is a recovering man, we started talks with UEFA in order to clarify the matter and admit him to the match."

Kwiatkowski said he too had tested positive for COVID-19.

Prolific Poland captain Robert Lewandowski has also been ruled out of the encounter with Gareth Southgate's side due to a knee injury.

Luke Shaw has spoken of his "massive regrets" over withdrawing from England squads in the past as the in-form left-back attempts to make up for lost time.

Manchester United defender Shaw made his first international appearance since September 2018 in the Three Lions' 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Albania on Sunday, setting up the opening goal for Harry Kane.

Shaw made his debut back in 2014, but won only his ninth cap in Tirana as Gareth Southgate's side made it two Group I victories out of two.

The 25-year-old has struggled with injuries since joining United from Southampton but is making a strong case to be England's first-choice left-back when Euro 2020 gets under way in June.

Shaw thought he may have blown his chances of representing England again and is determined to grasp his opportunity.

He said: "My family [and I] had a few discussions and thought that maybe I won’t be able to get back into it [the England squad].

"But deep down I always believed that I could and I worked hard, and gladly Gareth's given me another chance. Hopefully I can just impress him and stake my claim to be in the squad.

"I had a few massive regrets. I couldn't stop thinking of the mistakes I'd made in the past, especially with England. I pulled out of a lot of camps around that time. I was maybe not in the best sort of condition.

"I think over the last two years I've thought about it so much that that was my biggest regret, and yeah of course letting Gareth down.

"I tried to keep in touch with him to just to let him know that things have changed. He said he's picked me on merit and how I've been performing. The past is the past and hopefully we've forgotten about that now and can just focus on the future and I want to keep impressing him."

Robert Lewandowski has returned to Bayern Munich to receive treatment on a knee injury, Poland have confirmed.

The striker sustained damage to the collateral ligament of his right knee during the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra, in which he scored twice.

Poland issued a statement on Monday to confirm Lewandowski will miss their match with England on Wednesday in order to avoid the risk of aggravating the injury.

The 32-year-old will instead return to Germany for further treatment, which is expected to last from five to 10 days.

The news will be of concern to Bayern coach Hansi Flick ahead of a tough run of fixtures for the Bundesliga leaders.

Bayern face RB Leipzig on April 3, four days before the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain.

The German champions then host Union Berlin on April 10 ahead of the return leg away to PSG on April 13.

Lewandowski has scored 42 goals and provided eight assists in 36 appearances in all competitions for Bayern this season.

The former Borussia Dortmund star has at least 10 more direct goal involvements in 2020-21 than any other Bundesliga player.

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